Beirutshima: Biggest Explosion in Modern History

Lebanon has finally hit rock bottom as a big chemical explosion destroys the country’s heart and capital on Tuesday. The explosion took place in Beirut’s port and destroyed almost everything around it. Thus, Beirut is now bleeding while citizens from all of the country grief for their irreplaceable losses. The explosion has wreaked havoc on Lebanese lives, homes, and their future. 

Graphic Made by Maya Al-Sabbagh

A few hours after the disaster took place, Lebanon’s cabinet declared a two-week state of emergency in the capital city.

Catastrophic explosion

The United States Geological Survey data stated that Beirut’s explosion generated seismic waves equivalent to a magnitude 3.3 earthquake. The explosion was so powerful, Lebanese expats felt the shock wave all the way from Cyprus, about 200km (125 miles) across the Mediterranean Sea. 

Moreover, the blast measured up to 2.75 kilotons and the Institute of International Studies in California estimated the yield to be “between 200 and 500 tons”.  Thus, it is safe to consider it one of the largest explosions in the last decade.

However, it is important to note that though comparing Beirut’s explosion to Hiroshima’s tragedy gets at the scale of the disaster, this comparison confuses the origin of the explosion. Beirut’s disaster was not atomic or nuclear but it was ignited by chemicals all the same. The explosion indeed caused a big mushroom cloud. However, mushroom clouds are a phenomenon that merely follows big explosions and not specifically atomic ones.

The aftermath of Beirut’s explosion

Official sites have confirmed the death of 137 and the injury of over 5,000 civilians. Moreover, the explosion caused 300,000 people to lose their homes, leaving them homeless and vulnerable in the face of the ongoing pandemic. Furthermore, even though two days have passed,  hundreds of people are still not considered missing, with their loved ones fearing the worst.

The explosion has not only Beirut’s port but also almost all the imported goods. Lebanon, as a third world country, relies almost entirely on imported goods for even the most basic needs. Thus, the explosion will leave a huge blow on Lebanon’s already failing economy. Many are already fearing the reassurance of a national famine.

Moreover, angry devastated and heartbroken residents are demanding justice for this disaster. Though Lebanon has had its fair of corruption, this level of neglecting cannot go unpunished. Most Lebanese are still processing their grief and shock. However, these unprocessed feelings will soon turn to fury on corrupt politicians.

The Cause of the tragedy

The tragedy began when a large fire took place at the Port of Beirut, on the city’s northern Mediterranean coast. Many videos on social media showed white smoke billowing from Warehouse 12, next to the port’s huge grain silos, mere minutes before the explosion. 

Then, the roof of the warehouse caught alight resulting in a relatively small initial explosion. Witnesses also confessed to hearing some small blasts akin to fireworks afterword. 

No more than 30 seconds later, the fire caught the  2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate secretly stored in the port since 2014. Thus, the chemical exploded resulting in a destructive mushroom cloud and a horrifying shock wave. 

The cargo was supposed to be resold or disposed of years ago following a court order, but still, none of the officials are taking responsibility for the neglecting. Furthermore,  Investigation concerning the cause of the initial fire is still taking place. 

National response

Lebanon’s cabinet declared a two-week state of emergency in the capital city all while giving the military control of the capital’s security. Furthermore, Lebanese citizens from all of the country stood united in the face of this catastrophe. Hundreds of homes, schools, and properties were opened to house everyone affected by the disaster.

Many people and NGO’s volunteered to help find the missing and clean the streets of Beirut. Many psychologists and physical therapists also volunteered their services free of charge to anyone in need. Moreover, people are donating money, food, and clothes to help out all the unfortunate. Doctors, surgeons, and nurses are working overtime and are left underpaid as they try their best to save the lives of the injured.

In addition, some architects and interior designers are volunteering to help out with the rebuilding process.

International response

Many countries expressed solidarity with Lebanon and promised to aid the country in its hour of need. France has sent out aid and resources to help out. Germany also expressed its willingness to help as well their grief for the loss of one of the staff in the Lebanese-german embassy.

Iran, Malaysia, Israel, and Qatar also promised to send out humanitarian aid. Furthermore, the United States, the United Kingdom, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia have also shown their sympathy as well as their willingness to help the broken capital. 

The UN will also aid Lebanon during its emergency state. 


Al Jazeera. (2020, August 5). Beirut explosion: World reacts to deadly blast in Lebanon capital. Lebanon News | Al Jazeera., K. D. (2020, August 4). Think ‘Halifax’ Not ‘Hiroshima’ For Beirut Explosion. Forbes. explosion: Angry residents demand answers after blast. (2020). Bbc., B. M. T. M. (2020, August 6). Explosion rocks Lebanon’s capital city. CNN. UN ‘actively assisting’ in response to huge explosions at. (2020, August 5). UN News. PICKRELL, Business Insider. (2020). Beirut’s Devastating Explosion Equivalent to Several Hundred Tons of TNT, Experts Say. ScienceAlert., W. (2020, August 6). Beirut Explosion: What Happened in Lebanon and Everything Else You Need to Know. WSJ., H. (2020, August 6). Beirut explosion: death toll rises to 135 as about 5,000 people are wounded – as it happened. The Guardian.